Like many others, we had always wanted to visit Uluru but had long had it tagged for retirement. When the kids have grown up, we'd say. Then came Mini's obsession with the desert and we couldn't resist bumping up the timeline a little. Rav was in good enough health to get flight clearance so we packed the backpack and surprised the kids at the airport after promising them a day of plane spotting.
Uluru is a wonderfully child friendly destination but it is never really marketed to families So I thought I would jot down some advice for tackling this trip with kids.
You can fly direct to Uluru from Melbourne and the flight is approximately 2.5 hours. We flew with Jetstar which went well but keep in mind that you will need to check your pram with your bags and not at the gate. You can hire iPads on the flight for $10 or using your own electric devices is fine during the flight if they are on flight mode. There is no food provided but they have a good order as you go menu on board.
Uluru airport is very small and easy to navigate, all the accomodation choices provide free courtesy shuttles in the form of AATKing buses that will all be well signed and parked right outside the airport.
Ayers Rock Resort is where all the accomodation is, there are several choices ranging from camp grounds to fancier hotels. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes, a post office and a supermarket. No matter where you stay you are welcome to use the facilities in each hotel (pools etc.).
The resort is about 15 minutes drive from Uluru Kata Tjuta National park where you will find Uluru (formally Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (formally the Olgas). To enter the national park you will need a permit that is $25 per person for each person over 16 years old. The pass is valid for three days and can be purchased from your tour guide if doing a tour or at the gate of the park if you are self guided.
What to see and do:
- Uluru sunrise
There is a designated Uluru sunrise viewing area inside the national park that is well sign posted and will give you the postcard vantage point. There are also plenty of other places that would be just as good and less crowded. Remember to turn up much earlier than sunrise time to see the desert transform in the morning light.
- Uluru Sunset
Again, there is a designated sunset viewing area which gives you a great view of the changing colours as the sun sets. This spot is very crowded as many tour companies run sunset tours and provide wine and snacks for their groups. Get there early and get a spot at the front so the kids can see. There is a path leading up into the dunes for another vantage spot, it is just another view, not really a better view but it is less crowded. The path is a fairly easy walk but is very sandy so you wouldn't be able to get a pram up there. Local Ananu (the traditional owners of the land) sell their paintings here each night and this is the place to purchase a great piece if you are after one. You are generally buying off the artist themselves and the prices are significantly lower than at the resort.
- Uluru Base Walk
This is an 11.6 kilometre walk around the base of Uluru. The path is flat and solid (apart from one small sandy stretch) so you can do it on bikes or with a pram. It is a great way to slowly take in Uluru and appreciate the many features that often go unnoticed. The path is a loop with plenty of signs explaining places of significance so you could do it on your own but it is nice to do it with the guide and hear the stories of the Ananu and how they interpret the markings on Uluru.
- Kata Tjuta
There are several walks you can do at Kata Tjuta but the least strenuous, and most kid friendly is the Walpa Gorge walk which is 2.6 kilometres return. The walk is not difficult but involves rocky terrain, some hills and stairs, definitely not for prams. This walk can also get very hot as the heat radiates off the rock so bring plenty of water.
- Uluru Camel Farm
The Camel Farm is only a short distance from the Resort and the resort shuttle bus will take you there on request. It is free to visit the farm where you can see all the camels, some other animals and some other small displays. They run a few different tour types but if you are travelling with young children it's probably best to stick to the ten minute wander around the farm ($10 for kids, $15 for adults) minimum age is 4. It's definitely worth a look, our daughter loved it!
There are plenty of choices for star gazers including a family astronomy tour that departs from the town square and takes you a short distance into the desert to hear about the constellations and look through high powered telescopes. The view of the sky without the light pollution of the city is impressive but if you want the best view avoid the full moon.
-Kings Canyon Day Trip
I will start by saying that Kings Canyon is spectacular and very nice to see but unless you plan on doing the very physical Rim Walk (6 kilometres including a 150metre cliff climb) I don't think it is worth the travel time. Walking through Kata Tjuta gives a very similar experience to the Kings Canyon Creek Walk (the alternative to the Rim Walk) without driving for 600kilometres. Obviously this is just my opinion so please research the decision for yourself but keep in mind that there is a 4.45am start and 7+ hours on a bus involved. The Rim Walk closes at 9am if the temperature reaches 35 degrees so plan accordingly.
Top Tips for Kid Friendly Uluru
1. Grab some fly nets or sew nets onto the kid's favourite hats. There are A LOT of flies around.
2. Take plenty of water wherever you go and get the kids to be sipping regularly, it's really easy to dry out.
3. If you are planning on doing tours book well in advance, they do book out. We did a couple of tours with AATKings which were very good. The bus was full each time so if you want to sit together as a family ask for pick up from the Sails in the Desert as they pick up from there first.
4. Pack nice cool clothes, preferably in colours that will hide the red dirt that will be on everything. It does get quite cool at night though so a jacket comes in handy.
5. Ayers Wok (genius, righ?!) is a great option for tea. They sell noodles, rice and spring rolls and are located in the town square.
I hope you do make it to the red centre! I'm so glad we got the opportunity to take our little ones. If you have any specific questions I'm happy to help, just message me on the Little. Different. Facebook page.
Have a great trip!